Miami-Dade and Broward public schools will remain closed until further notice due to recovery efforts from Hurricane Irma.
Among the reasons, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said at a press conference Monday that the schools had to undergo safety inspections.
Miami-Dade public schools will almost certainly remain closed through Wednesday, and may stay shuttered until Monday as the system unwinds shelter operations at dozens of schools, cleans up damage and monitors the status of the county’s largest single workforce.
Carvalho said there were no reports of major structural damage at schools, but felled trees and other Irma damage left many inaccessible. While most evacuees have left, some schools converted to shelters are still housing people. And with so many school employees stuck elsewhere in Florida in a failed attempt to avoid Irma, Carvalho said it’s not clear how quickly teachers and staff will be ready to return to work.
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“I am thankful we were able to dodge the grenade. But not the bullet,” Carvalho said during a press briefing outside Miami’s Shenandoah Middle School. “Access to some schools remains somewhat limited. But the structural integrity of our school building did very solid and very strong.”
Two large trees crashed through a fence in the school’s perimeter, blocking the parking lot.
Carvalho said schools officially remain closed until further notice. Tuesday’s closure has already been announced. The superintendent said it looks nearly impossible to imagine schools opening Wednesday.
“We cannot reopen schools until all shelters are cleared. We cannot reopen schools until all schools have been inspected,” he said. “Lastly, our workforce, 52,000 strong, a lot of them migrated north to avoid the storm. Unfortunately the storm followed them. They need to be able to return to Miami.”
Carvalho called a late week reopening the “best case scenario.” Otherwise, “Worst case scenario, on Monday we will reopen.”
As for make up days, if schools open on Thursday, there would be no need for makeup days, Carvalho said. The State of Florida changed the criteria from a 180-day mandatory school year to one based on hours. “Miami-Dade exceeds the required hours. We can remain closed through Thursday without a need for makeup days,” he said.
“With that said, we don’t like to lose educational opportunities so if we need to make up days we’ll make a decision,” Carvalho said. “We are in good shape even if we have to be closed to Thursday. We would have the option to either waive those days or make them up.”
There were 42 public schools serving as shelters and some are on generator power. Many students and their families used these over the weekend as Irma battered South Florida. Still others fled the region ahead of the storm and it will take some time to return to their homes and routines.
Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said on Tuesday that all schools and district offices will be closed through Friday, primarily because of power outages at more than half of all schools in the county.
“Our goal is to reopen schools on Monday, Sept. 18, pending the restoration of power,” Runcie said during a press conference at the Broward Emergency Operations Center. “At this time, only 52 percent of our schools have power fully restored.”
Runcie said school officials also assessed damage at county schools that have led to about 600 work orders for repairs.
“About 50 percent of those work orders are related to roof-related issues, such as roof leaks,” he said. “The other 50 percent are related to HVAC, electrical, fire alarm and carpentry related matters. We believe that we’ll certainly be able to address those and get back on track to starting on Monday.”
In addition, Runcie said, portable classrooms at Broward schools suffered some of the worst damage.
“There has been some significant amount of roof damage to portable classrooms, notable around Falcon Cove (a middle school in Weston) and Cypress Bay High School (in Weston). They have a large number of portable classrooms.”
Private schools do not have to adhere to this order, so parents should check with their individual schools as necessary.
In Homestead, Irma’s winds ripped the roof off one of its charter schools.
Homestead officials have confirmed that Keys Gate Charter High School lost its roof.
“It completely peeled off,” said Zackery Good, a spokesman for Homestead. No word yet on when the school will be operable.
Miami Herald reporter Monique Madan contributed to this story.